KHARTOUM, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Sudan Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) rebel group released 31 people seized at gunpoint about a week ago in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Sunday.
Representatives of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Darfur - eight women and 23 men - were abducted while being transported by buses under the escort of peacekeepers from the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). They were on their way to a conference to discuss ways to rebuild Darfur and return displaced persons to their home.
"The Sudanese authorities and the SLA-AW asked us to assist in the transfer in our capacity as a neutral intermediary," the statement quoted Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan, as saying.
“Those released were accompanied by ICRC personnel as they were transported by helicopter to Zalingay, where they were handed over to the Sudanese authorities,” the statement reads.
Deputy Governor of Central Darfur, Mohamed Mousa Ahmed, said the release came as a result of “intense efforts by regional authorities, security forces and public organizations” and accused UNAMID of inaction.
"The displaced people were in a convoy of the mission cars, and were under their protection, but its forces did not play any role in the release of the kidnapped," an independent Sudanese daily, Sudan Vision, quoted the official as saying.
UNAMID denied the accusations in a statement issued on March 27, saying that its contingent in Sudan operates under a constant “risk of ambush, armed attacks, abduction, killing or looting.”
“UNAMID commander on the ground requested a reinforcement patrol. While on its way to the incident site, the reinforcement patrol was stopped by the Sudanese military at Kass checkpoint, which prevented the peacekeepers from attempting to release the IDPs,” the statement reads.
The peacekeeping mission also said it had launched its own investigation into the incident.